GIA editor

Snowden’s Leaks an Act of ‘Public Service,’ Holder Says

Holder, however, was quick to put into context what appeared to be praise of a person the U.S. considers a criminal
30 May 2016

Catherine Maddux for VOA News reports: former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says Edward Snowden performed a "public service" when the ex-National Security Agency contractor leaked classified intelligence documents.

"I thought the president put it best when he said, 'Just because we have the ability to do something, doesn't mean we should,'" assumed Holder. He added that Obama’s administration was continuously weighing the value of surveillance against the issue of privacy.

However, he contended: "We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made."

The infamous leak occurred in 2013, when Snowden revealed classified information to certain news outlets, disclosing the extent to which the Obama administration was gathering personal data — far and above what took place under The Patriot Act following the 9/11 attacks.

The revelations not only shocked the American public, but also international allies (think Angela Merkel, whose personal cell phone was revealed to have been bugged).

The scandal pushed Obama to assemble a panel that reproached the National Security Agencies' domestic data collection — that is the bulk of metadata on Americans, which can show the most private personal details of an individual's life.

For some, Snowden is a traitor who gave away all kinds of secrets to our enemies, thus endangering the society. For others, he is a courageous American activist, who put his life on the line to the violations of the U.S. Constitution.

Holder reflected on the nuance of the Snowden case by saying that, "… doing what he did — and the way he did it — was inappropriate and illegal." In the eyes of the U.S. government, Snowden jeopardized America's security interests by leaking classified information while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency in 2013.

"He harmed American interests," Holder said.


By Stefan Paraber for GIA.


Snowden's Leaks an Act of 'Public Service,' Holder Says

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took issue with “the way” Snowden exposed information. But what actually happened to those who worked through the traditional channels and revealed wrongdoings to their superiors?

Thomas Drake, a senior NSA person who complained about wrongdoings by the NSA to his superiors, discovered that telling the truth to his superiors will not solve the problem. He was arrested, charged with severe crimes, his superiors lied to a federal judge and withheld information from the court, and he faced financial ruin. He later found a job as a simple worker at an Apple store with his reputation destroyed (The Guardian, “How the Pentagon punished NSA whistleblowers”).

John Crane, a Pentagon official whose job was to protect whistleblowers found to his shock that he was eventually prosecuted himself. He was made to resign in 2013. (The Intercept, Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga).

According to Mark Hertsgaard, Snowden learned from the mistakes made by Drake and that was what saved him. Hertsgaard told The Intercept: “When people look at Edward Snowden, he’s the most famous. What they don’t realize is just how exceptional he is. He actually got his message out and he lived to tell the tale. … That is highly unusual. In most cases, whistleblowers pay with their lives to save ours.”

Next year, results of a new Department of Justice investigation into how the Department of Defense treats whistleblowers will become public. One should be forgiven for not holding his breath, but Holder  should examine how past whistleblowers were treated before suggesting that Snowden “harmed American interests.”